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St. Louis finally back on the professional soccer map

May 2, 2014, 8:25 AM EDT

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On Thursday soccer fans in STL rejoiced, as their city now has a professional soccer team to call their own.

An announcement from the USL Pro, the third-tier in the US soccer pyramid, welcomed the soccer-loving city back to the party after four long years without pro soccer in St. Louis. There has been a huge show of support to help get St. Louis back on the soccer map and with a huge turnout of almost 50,000 for a friendly between Chelsea and Manchester City at Busch Stadium last year, the city’s appetite for the sport is there for all to see.

Painstaking work has been going on behind the scenes and St. Louis has been awarded a USL Pro expansion franchise that will begin play in 2015. Longtime St. Louis business executive and soccer advocate Jim Kavanaugh will serve as CEO and the club will play at a 5,000 capacity stadium at Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.  The team will be led by veteran coach Dale Schilly.

USL CEO Alec Papadakis had the following to say about handing St. Louis a USL Pro franchise.

“We are thrilled to welcome St. Louis into USL PRO starting with the 2015 season,” Papadakis said. “St. Louis, more than any other U.S. city, has significantly contributed to the development and growth of American soccer on all levels – youth, collegiate and professional. Through the years, St. Louis players, coaches and soccer executives have greatly impacted not only the game of soccer, but the history of American soccer itself.”

In the past STL has had several soccer teams who have either been relocated or gone under, as the city has struggled to keep fans of the beautiful game supporting their local team. In the NASL days the St. Louis Stars shone brightly from 1967-1977 but were then relocated to California. After that came the MISL side the Steamers, from 1979-1988 and then the Storm who also played in the MISL from 1989-1992. Following that there was the St. Louis Ambush from 1992 -2000 and then AC St. Louis who only lasted one season in 2010.

All of those teams show there is a love for the game in this area, with several U.S. soccer Hall of Fame inductees an incredibly strong collegiate level of soccer and plenty of international soccer fans based in Missouri. Famous U.S. players such as Brad Davis, Chris Klein, Pat Noonan, Matt Pickens, Steve Ralston, Mike Sorber, Tim Ream, and Taylor Twellman all hail from STL as the soccer loving city now aims to rekindle its passion for the beautiful game.

The big question remains whether or not they can become the next MLS expansion franchise. It’s too early to speculate if that will happen but if the fans get behind their new team, the sky is the limit for soccer in St. Louis.

  1. numbr4stuna - May 2, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    My gut feel as a Saint Louis resident, if you give us an MLS team, it will thrive. If you give us a minor league team, nobody will care…

    • sibertt - May 2, 2014 at 9:01 AM

      (Gah! Ninja’d.) This too.

    • wtfchiefs - May 2, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      You’re exactly right. I’m waiting for MLS here. I’ll buy season tickets immediately if/when it happens, but I probably won’t ever go watch USL. Sounds like we have a lot of work to do to get MLS though unfortunately.

    • 1974a - May 2, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      That’s the problem with St.Louis. You don’t receive a handout with out a billionaire owner. You have to support a minor league team in order to get convince a billionaire to invest in St.Louis.

  2. sibertt - May 2, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    USL Pro would be much easier to like if they weren’t so stuck-up to continuously say they’re the best league outside MLS. With the MLS partnership and victories like in OKC, it seems at the moment like they might eventually outlast NASL, but they’re still Div3 and haven’t shown to be any better than NASL in the past two USOCs.

    I love the Scott Gallagher organization, but until more details come out I’m going to reserve judgement. God know we’ve been burned before – SLSG was part of the organization that included AC St. Louis and the Athletica.

  3. tridecagon - May 2, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Just for reference, a new edition of the St. Louis Ambush began MISL play in February at Family Arena in St. Charles. Great to have an outdoor pro team… but yeah, no one will care much unless it’s MLS.

    • 1974a - May 2, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      St.Louis won’t get an MLS team because doesn’t have a billionaire backer and they only way for this to happen is to support the USL soccer team just like how fans supported Orlando City SC.

      • sibertt - May 2, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        Do you realize that among all expansion teams 20 and above, Orlando City is actually the exception, not the rule? Or are you saying NYCFC, Miami, Atlanta, and (probably) Minnesota don’t count?

  4. Vnice - May 2, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    I think it’s absolutely ridiculous for JPW to continue to waste bandwidth on this otherwise excellent site by speculating about a team’s MLS chances a full year before they even take the field for the first time.

  5. 1974a - May 2, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    sibertt- Are you a billionaire? Do have a strategy to bring an MLS team? If so please make the announcement other wise you just going to have to move to a city that has a Major League Soccer team.

    • sibertt - May 3, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      Well, for one, I AM in an MLS city, as I moved from STL to DC about two years ago now for grad school. So that should answer about my billionaire status. I also was a passionate supporter of ACSTL and the Athletica while they were around, so I’m not an “only-MLS”er myself. However, it’s a fact that we couldn’t even sell out our 5k-seat stadium, which was depressing. So I’m just calling it like it is, not saying it’s the “right” way for a city to view a team or anything. My point was you can’t preach that the only way up to MLS is through a successful lower-division club when that’s true for only one of the past four expansion slots, quite likely one out of five if it’s the Vikings ownership that decides to create a team out of nothing in Minnesota like the Falcons did in Atlanta. With how “major league” the mentality of St. Louis is, it’s a lot easier to hope for a billionaire to show up than to hope for support for a minor league team.

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